How did “Bhatia, PI” originate? What inspirations did you draw on?
As a series of conversations, but basically as a joke, and I mean that seriously. The basic premise—of a fraudulent paranormal investigator running a shoestring-budget out-of-parents’-home operation sort of birthed itself as a minor character I created for a sketch webseries that never came to be. Then for a good while after that I always sort of had this notion of wanting to sprinkle it into a story somewhere because it was so ridiculous. Only I never quite found the right spot and one day I was lamenting all of it to my spouse and was promptly asked why I hadn’t turned it into a story of its own. Which now seems obvious but had equally obviously never occurred to me. So off I went, only it’s gone and turned into a novel now. And in the process of that novel, I also ended up with this novelette, which is basically a prequel/introduction to the world and events of the novel and a sort of “origin story” for the main characters, while also running parallel to all of it in some ways.
Did you get stuck at any point while writing this? How did you get past that?
Shockingly, not at all, it may be one of the most easily-and-painlessly flowing stories I’ve ever put out. I’d sat down to do a sort of backstory/origin to my characters, decided to write it in the style of the novel, and by the end of the day I pretty much had the novelette, give or take a few minor tweaks that have happened over time. It was a remarkably fun experience, even when weighed in the context of writing funny stories being, well, fun.
Where are you in this story?
Everywhere, really, but if there’s one place where it’s probably most obvious, it would perhaps be the narrative voice itself. So much of comedy is in the view of events, in addition (or even opposition) to the events themselves, and that’s a place I seem to find myself existing in not just more and more, but also rather comfortably, and that’s especially true of this story, which wrote itself so readily.
What led you into writing genre fiction?
Other than reading genre fiction and enjoying writing, you mean? Probably a desire to write stories that I hadn’t read or couldn’t find, though I’m not sure there was that much of a conscious decision making process about the whole thing. Really, it was more that every time I wrote something, all the way back to when I was maybe six years old, it turned out to be genre and fiction, and the sort of things I wrote were things I wanted to read, or a mishmash of genres, if you will. Which I suppose is not very different to a lot of people. Most of us writers are just DIY readers, really, or at least that’s my theory.
What trends in speculative fiction would you like to see gain popularity in the next few years?
I think it already is gaining popularity, but I’d love to see even more explorations of humour and humourous storytelling from people from who aren’t from traditionally-published backgrounds. For one because I think we could all use a bit of laughter in our lives these days, but also because laughter, and making people laugh, is such a primal and yet fundamental building block of not just storytelling, but also culture itself. And the varied way in which various cultures view, construct and deliver humour in storytelling mediums is such a vast and often-untapped ocean of riches, both for the reader and for other writers.
What are you working on lately? Where else can fans look for your work?
In case I haven’t mentioned it often enough already, there’s the novel featuring the further (mis)adventures of the characters you’ve met in this story. And let’s just say there’s a reason why this novelette is the prequel, because if you thought things were absurd so far, well, it’s about to get really wild.
The novel isn’t quite finished yet, but it’s getting rather close now, and I can’t wait for you to see what happens next! I post updates when I can to my website and Twitter, though you can also follow along on my Patreon (bit.ly/3g99Ayd) where I post excerpts as well as a few other tidbits.
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